Get yer Faves!


Today I received Favorites, the zine Craig Fischer has put together to benefit Team Cul de Sac’s fundraising to support research into Parkinson’s disease. It’s a great little thing I encourage you to buy and read, and not — really! — just because I have a piece in it on Carl Barks.

You see, Team Cul de Sac is run by Chris Sparks, friend to the great cartoonist behind the comic strip of the same name, Richard Thompson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009. Its main project is a massive art book with contributions from a wide range of cartoonists to be published by Andrews McMeel in 2012.

Favorites is Craig’s and a bunch of other writers about comics’ way of contributing to this worthy cause. It unites thirty-odd such people, each of us writing about “our favorite comic”, whatever that may mean. Here’s the list of contributors: Derek Badman, David Bordwell, Noah Berlatsky, Alex Boney, Matthew J. Brady, Scott Bukatman, Joanna Draper Carlson, Isaac Cates, Rob Clough, Corey Creekmur, Andrew Farago, Craig Fischer, Shaenon K. Garrity, Dustin Harbin, Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, Gene Kanneberg Jr., Abhay Khosla, Susan Kirtley, Sean Kleefeld, Costa Koutsoutis, Andrew Mansell, Robert Stanley Martin, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Anna Merino, Mike Rhode, Jim Rugg, Frank Santoro, Chris Schweizer, Caroline Small, Tom Spurgeon, Ben Towle, and myself.

Favorites is $5. You can buy it through Team Cul de Sac.

Cover illo from Favorites by Richard Thompson.

Gene Colan RIP

From Doctor Strange #14 (1976), inked by Tom Palmer

I was sad to learn on Friday that the great silver-age cartoonist Gene Colan, known primarily for late 60s and 70s Marvel Comics like Iron Man, Howard the Duck, and above all Tomb of Dracula, passed away after several years of battling liver disease and cancer. He was one of the great stylists of his era, standing apart from his more classically oriented peers in the Marvel Bullpen with an open, expressive idiom — sort of like “Ghastly” Graham Ingels did at EC roughly a decade and a half earlier.

Unusually for a comic book artist, Colan’s drawing was defined less by contour and more by open, enveloping areas of dark. A dynamic chiaroscuro, his approach was less about the contrasting of forms than about their mutability.

The kind of smoky chiaroscuro — sfumato — developed by Leonardo in the late 15th century was a means of representing the fact that physical form is not clearly demarcated in space, there is no such thing as contour, but rather joined together infinitesimally. Colan’s drawing works a kinetic interpretation of this principle — hands disappear in blasts of energy, legs careen off wildly, facial features dissolve smokily, and forms undulate mercurially. Eschewing the solidity of the Kirby school of action cartooning, Colan created a thrilling alternative, painting with his pencil.

Take Two — An Interview with Ruppert/Mulot

From Sol Carrelus


The cartooning duo Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot are amongst the most remarkable emerging talents on the Francophone comics scene. A two-headed cartoon beast, theirs is an organic collaboration, melding writing and drawing. Their comics are possessed of a strong experimental formalism — elaborate analytical constructions, in which characters move and interact for our entertainment, as if in a petri dish.

Picks of the Week


RIP Gil Scott-Heron & Geronimo Pratt.

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • “How America Screws Its Soldiers,” writing on Memorial Day, Andrew J. Bacevich explains how perpetual war comes at a huge cost to the country and especially its soldiers. Nothing new here, but the argument is well-made and passionate (thanks, Noah!).
  • On the topic of Memorial Day, David J. Blight’s history lesson in the New York Times, unearthing a spectacular commemoration made by Union soldiers and freedmen in Charleston, SC, in 1865, is a fascinating read.
  • “Sex Trafficking: The Girls Next Door,” writing for Vanity Fair, Amy Fine Collins examines a particular series of sex trafficking cases in Hartford, CN. A harrowing piece.
  • Geronimo Pratt RIP


    Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, or rather Geronimo Ji Jaga, passed away in his adopted home in Tanzania yesterday. His death should give us pause to reflect upon a largely forgotten, but no less disgraceful passage in American history. A Vietnam vet and Black Panther, he was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and imprisoned for 27 years on charges fabricated by the FBI. He is one of a large number of black, Latino, and American Indian activists and revolutionaries — some of the most visible “terrorists” of the day — subjected to gross miscarriage of justice at the hands of the government, its COINTELPRO, and other institutions, from the 1960s onward.

    Here’s a short primer, from a 1984 episode of 60 Minutes:

    His life was both an object lesson in the history of American institutional racism and suppression of dissent, and a rare example of transcending suffering. He never gave up, and when the conviction was finally reversed in 1999, he was unwavering in commitment to his cause without showing any despondency, bitterness, or resentment. This man’s story should be taught in schools.

    And let us not forget that there’s still a large number of people in America serving long prison terms on dubious convictions. Mumia Abu-Jamal, on death row for almost 30 years, is but the most famous and visible of them. Whether guilty or not, many of them have not been given the fair trials promised in the Constitution. Why does it seem the book has been closed on them?

    On the Real — An Interview with Chester Brown


    This interview with Chester Brown, who is currently garnering much attention for his extraordinary new book Paying for It, was conducted at the 2004 MoCCA Arts Fest in a small storage room where they kept the boxed-up Harvey Awards, a couple of hours before the ceremony was to start. Brown had recently released the collected edition of Louis Riel, which naturally became the main subject of our conversation.

    As should be evident from my 2005 review, I consider this a remarkable book in a remarkable oeuvre. I never thought the interview rendered Brown nor the book justice, consisting mostly of dead ends and leads left unpursued, but I still think the artist makes a number of interesting points and observations and foregrounds the motivations that led him to write Paying for It. I am in any case grateful that Mr. Brown took the time.

    The interview was published at Rackham in 2004. This is its first publication in English. I hope you enjoy it, despite its shortcomings.

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • This is a well-written piece on the sometimes hermetic and puzzling vagaries of art world authentication. It doesn’t change, however, that there is no way the Buffalo Pietà at its center was painted by Michelangelo. Look at it. The provenance may be compelling, though the argument about the wax seal on the back seems iffy. And the underdrawing could of course be by the master, as the owner and his conservator champion claim, but the cropped infrared published in the interactive section of the article (look right) is hard to judge by. Nothing about it yells Michelangelo at this viewer though.
  • The passing of Gil Scott-Heron brought this fine personal tribute from one of his talented heirs, Michael Franti of Spearhead, but if you only read one thing about him, make it this profile by Alec Wilkinson, written last year for the New Yorker.
  • Comics links. Two excellent pieces up at The Comics Journal this week: the latest installment in Ryan Holmberg’s history of gekiga and Ken Parille’s analysis of creation as a motif in Jack Kirby and Chris Ware.
  • Peace Go With You Brother (Gil Scott-Heron RIP)

  • I heard Gil Scott-Heron performing live once, in Copenhagen back in 1999 or thereabouts. It was a disheartening experience. Sitting at his keyboard, hair greasy, clothes filthy, almost falling asleep mid-song at several points, he was clearly far gone. Everyone was sitting down, even as he was performing some of his most rousing tunes. I got up to show my support, and love for songs that had taught me a lot about Black America and where rap came from. But it was heartbreaking.
  • Still, his voice was there, still warmly burred, deeply persuasive, behind the thick slur of years of abuse.
  • Count to Ten, Lars

    Congratulations to Nicolas Winding Refn for winning best director at Cannes. Well done, I’m looking forward to Drive, just as I hope to catch Terence Malick’s Palm-winner Tree of Life. I did however find shameful Refn’s callous disavowal — he was “repulsed” — of his mentor Lars von Trier’s extremely ill-advised, but ultimately harmless comments that got him banned from the festival earlier in the week.

    Look, what Trier said was clearly offensive, if taken at face value, and the press being the press of course immediately did so, reducing it to out-of-context soundbytes — “Trier admits to being a Nazi,” and so on. He did no such thing, and Refn of all people should understand Nordic irony when he hears it. This is a deeply ingrained way of joking in Scandinavia, and anybody who has followed Trier just a little bit, at his Cannes press conferences perhaps more than anywhere, would know that he relishes this kind of humor, and has a tendency to talk out of his ass. Refn is right when he says that Danes can be parochial and insensitive — witness the Muhammad cartoons — but how about sticking up for your embattled colleague instead of choosing the easy way out?

    The real disgrace in all this, however, is the festival board of directors’ decision to expel Trier.